Starting on Sept. 30, 2021, Hiram College’s Gelbke Fine Arts Center will display the work of Stefan Zoller, a painter and visual artist from New York. The exhibition, titled “Strata,” will include 38 pieces — mostly paintings, but also drawings and collages — some of which emphasize Zoller’s layering of paint to create a unique, textured image.
“This broad spectrum of labor applied to these paintings, in addition to their elemental appearance, serve as metaphors for both geologic time and material,” Zoller says in his artist’s statement. “While the immensity of geologic time is a concept humans cannot fully comprehend given our brief lifespans, we can see clearly its effects and histories.” According to Zoller, he was able to create some pieces in the collection rather quickly, while others took months or years given the complexity of the layers.
To contrast the natural appearance of these layered pieces, “Strata” will also feature paintings with strong line work inspired by engineering drawings. According to the artist, “Their original application was to control and overcome nature in the service of some greater humanitarian function. They point towards humankind’s need to organize, to survive, and to remember.”
Zoller, who lives in Rochester, New York with his wife and two children, teaches at Nazareth College and the Rochester Institute of Technology. He earned his B.A. in studio art from Houghton College and has an M.F.A. in painting from Syracuse University. He has shown his work nationally and abroad, with his most recent show in 2020, “Cairns,” on display at Leeds Gallery in Richmond, Indiana. Zoller was also an apprentice to Thomas Buechner, painter and former director of the Brooklyn Museum.
Christopher Ryan, associate professor of art & design and director of the Gelbke Fine Arts Center Gallery, chose to show Zoller’s work after seeing what Hiram students could learn from Zoller’s coherent themes as well as his rich use of textural effects. “He uses a variety of additive techniques that allow paint to layer, ooze and pool, as well as processes that challenge that accumulation, such as cracking, sloughing, abrading and eroding,” says Ryan. “Because of these diverse paint-handling approaches, Stefan’s paintings often seem to allude to other materials, such as glass, ceramics, stone or marble. These materials contain their own embedded associations, so this exhibition really encourages associative thinking.”
Zoller visited Hiram in August for the initial setup of the exhibition and is eager to return to campus for “Strata’s” opening. “I feel profoundly privileged to have been able to make this work, put it in this gallery, and hopefully spend a brief moment in time with viewers who have come to look at these paintings in person,” says Zoller.
“Strata” will be on display at the Gelbke Fine Arts Center from Sept. 30 through Nov. 18, 2021. The gallery will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. To open the exhibition, the College will host a reception on Sept. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m., with a talk from the artist starting at 5:45 p.m. The reception is free to attend and open to the public.